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May 25, 2018

Where Does $100 to the Children’s Wish Foundation International Go?

by Anne Paddock

The Children’s Wish Foundation International (not to be confused with the Make a Wish Foundation) is a 501 (c) (3) based in Atlanta, Georgia.

The organization (CWFI) fulfills wishes for seriously and terminally ill children which is enough to make almost anyone pull out their checkbook or respond to telemarketers phone calls, mailings, or internet solicitations. But, donors should think twice before donating to this organization because $51 of every $100 in revenue went towards fundraising and management expenses while only $23 out of every $100 was awarded in grants ($16 in cash grants and $7 in non-cash awards).

The Form 990 (2016 for the year beginning July 1, 21016 and ending June 30, 2017) reports key financial information including Revenue and Expenses (so you as a donor can understand where revenue came from and how revenue was spent), Assets, Liabilities, and Net Fund Assets, Grants, and Fundraising, which are analyzed below.

REVENUE AND EXPENSES

CWFI raised $4.3 million, almost all of which came from contributions, gifts and grants and mostly through a telemarketing firm and an auto auction company.

Expenses totaled $4.5 million and can be looked at two ways:  by general category (Grants, Program Services, Management Expenses and Fundraising Expenses) and by specific line item categories (i.e compensation-related, grants, office-related, etc). Both are beneficial with the former providing a general overview while the latter provides specific detail on where money was spent.

Expenses by Broad Category (Grants, Program Services, Management, and Fundraising Expenses)

The $4.5 million in expenses were reported in the following categories:

  • $1.8 million (or 42% of revenue):  Fundraising Costs
  • $  .4 million (or 9% of revenue):  Management Expenses
  • $1.3 million (or 30% of revenue):  Program Expenses
  • $1.0 million (or 23% of revenue):  Grants

As illustrated above, CWFI spent $200,000 more than they raised. For every $100 in revenue raised, the organization spent $104. The excess expenses were covered by the net fund assets, which had a balance of about $500,000 at year-end.

Using the above information, $100 in revenue was spent as follows:

$100:  Revenue

-$ 42:  Fundraising Costs

-$   9:  Management Costs

-$ 51:  Total Fundraising and Management Costs

$ 49:  Revenue Remaining

-$ 30:  Program Expenses

-$ 23:  Grants

-$  4:  Excess Expenses over Revenue

Expenses by Specific Line Item Category

  • $1.8 million (or 42% of revenue):  Fundraising Fees
  • $ .7 million (or 16% of revenue):  Compensation-related Expenses
  • $ .6 million (or 14% of revenue):  Fees for Services (i.e. accounting, legal, IT, program -no detail)
  • $ .4 million (or 9% of revenue:  Office-Related Expenses (i.e. occupancy, office, insurance, postage, travel, etc)
  • $1.0 million (or 23% of revenue):  Grants

Using the above information, $100 in revenue was spent as follows:

$100:  Revenue

-$ 42:  Fundraising Fees

-$ 16:  Compensation-related Fees

-$ 14:  Fees for Services

-$  9:  Office-related Expenses

-$ 81:  Total Fundraising, Compensation, Fees for Services and Office-related Expenses

$ 19:  Amount Remaining

-$23:  Grants

-$  4: Excess Expenses over Revenue

As illustrated above, the largest line item expense for CWFI is fundraising costs with $42 out of every $100 spent on fundraising expenses.  Compensation-related expenses totaled $700,000. Although the organization reports having had 19 employees in 2017 (which equates to an average compensation of $38,000 per employee), just one employee, the President, Linda Dozoretz received more than $100,000 (Dozoretz received $246,484 in total compensation).

FUNDRAISING 

CWFI primarily relies on telemarketers and specifically a fundraising company called The Heritage Company based in Sherwood, Arizona who raised $2.9 million for the organization and was compensated $1 million, netting CWFI $1.9 million. CWFI also used a company called Insurance Auto Auction of Monrovia, California to sell vehicles donated to the organization.  The value of donated vehicles was about $700,000 and Insurance Auto Auction was paid $500,000, netting CWFI $200,000.  Finally, CWFI also paid approximately $300,000 in other fundraising fees.

GRANTS

CWFI reported the award of $1 million in grants, almost all of whom were to recipients in the United States. The organization reports that 325,000 children benefited from $681,423 in cash awards (about $2 per child) and $308,521 (about $1 per child) in non-cash grants (i.e. educational materials, school supplies, etc). These benefits are described as events held at hospitals by the staff at CWFI.  Less than $23,000 was spent on grants to recipients outside of the US.

ASSETS, LIABILITIES and NET ASSETS

CWFI reports having $2 million in total assets at year-end with assets concentrated in publicly traded securities ($1.1 million), land, buildings, and equipment (nearly $400,000), and about $200,000 in cash.

Liabilities totaled $1.5 million with the organization owing $1 million on the property/office the organization operates out of and the remainder accounts payable and other expenses.

Net Fund Assets were about $500,000 at year-end with $400,000 unrestricted and $100,000 temporarily restricted.

SUMMARY

In summation, CWFI relies heavily on an outside telemarketing firm to raise about 75% of revenue (about $3 million) and pay this firm $1 million for their services. Their secondary source is a car auction company who received in compensation about 70% of the value of the vehicle (the value of the vehicles was $700,000 and the car auction company received nearly $500,000).  Although the Form 990 states CWFI receives “65% of the net vehicle sales,” the word “net” seems to be key here. Donors would do better to sell the vehicle themselves and then make donations to the charity of their choice.

CWI only distributed about $700,000 last year in cash grant awards, which is about 16% of revenue or $16 out of every $100 received.

This non-profit pays heavily for donation dollars (and donors should not give donations through telemarketers or donate their vehicles if they want their donation proceeds to go further) and spends more on fundraising and overhead than what they give out.  The President also received nearly $250,000 last year, which appears to be excessive given the size of this small non-profit.

RECOMMENDATION

Find another non-profit to make your charitable dollars go further.

To read the IRS Form 990 (2016), click here.

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